Directorio de
Directorio de
Comunicados de Prensa
Galería de fotos
de este Comunicado
20 de abril de 2007

Honorable Federico Hernández Denton
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Conference sponsored by the
Harvard-MIT Puerto Rican caucus on
Restoring Economic Growth In Puerto Rico:
Proposing Solutions

      Good evening. I would like to thank the Harvard-MIT Puerto Rican Caucus for inviting me to participate as a speaker in this conference which purpose is to search for solutions to restore economic growth in Puerto Rico. I am honored to be among such distinguished guests and panelists all of which have made very important contributions to society in academia as well as the public and private sectors.
      But with all due respect to these distinguished personalities it is not to them that I will address my words today. It is with the students, graduate and undergraduate, with whom I would like to share my thoughts. I believe it is they, and their generation, the ones that hold in their hands the solutions we are searching for. It is you, the Puerto Rican students of Harvard and MIT, who with your idealism, creativity, dynamism, hard work and commitment will be able to turn things around and lead Puerto Rico into a new era of economic growth and social justice.

      As students at Harvard and MIT you have been able to benefit from the best possible education in your respective fields. You have had the unique opportunity to get to know the most respected minds in your chosen areas of study and have been lucky enough to be challenged and dared, by your professors and fellow students, to be the best you can be and to give the most you can give. In many instances preconceptions have been shattered and you have been forced to look at a problem from a whole new perspective. As part of your education, whole schemes have been thrown out the window and you have been called upon to invent new schemes that would enable you to face new problems. To sum it up, the education you have received has empowered you to become the seers and the inventors, the humanists and the scientists, the politicians and the technocrats, and the entrepreneurs and the philanthropists of the future.

      As such, you are the ones to which we must entrust the “restoration of Puerto Rico”, and I firmly believe we are facing a need for a restoration that goes beyond the economic sector and must encompass all the sectors of our society. We should be talking of a social restoration as well.

      Our economic restoration requires improving both our productivity and the quality of our products, acquiring the ability to respond quickly to changes in the market, developing the willingness to seek new opportunities and challenges, as well as being open to the demands of the virtual world. It also requires an increased collaboration between the public sector, the private sector and the academic community and a strong commitment to adherence to the principles of corporate responsibility and to the preservation of our environment and natural resources.

      Our social restoration must include a return to a strong work ethic based on the values of hard work, self discipline and diligence. It must be based on a strong recommitment to the democratic values we strongly cherish, and we must rediscover together, as a society, the guiding principles of order, tolerance and personal sacrifice in order to achieve the common good.
       I hope I can count with each and every one of you to play an important role in these fundamental changes.

      As you already know, history is cyclical and countries and societies go through phases of growth and stagnation. Puerto Rico is no exception. It is true that today we are facing an economic slowdown and a divided government, a fact which makes difficult decisions requiring consensus even more difficult. Puerto Rico is also in the midst of a transformation from an industrial-manufacturing economy to a technology based and service oriented economy.  As with all transformations, some of the changes required can be unsettling and painful. Sometimes they can even lead to turmoil and public dissatisfaction.

      We should not be afraid of what is happening. Remember that this is not the first time that Puerto Rico undergoes fundamental changes in its economic and social structure.  Beginning in the 1950’s, Puerto Rico developed from an agrarian society to an industrial one.  Fifteen years earlier, a U.S. Senate Committee had concluded that the problems of Puerto Rico were “unsolvable”. Yet, we put policies in place that resulted in dramatic changes and dramatic improvements in our standard of living and Puerto Rico became the showcase of the Caribbean. But implementing new policies would not have been enough for the turnaround if they had not been accompanied by a conviction that tomorrow would be better and an unending sense of pride and optimism. We grew not only with our successes but also through the lessons learned by our failures.

      Our reality is not as dire as has been painted. In spite of our economic slowdown, the lack of political consensus on tax reform and the Government’s budget, and of our over burdened and over extended public payroll there are is a positive side to consider. We have an open economy and operate within the federal framework, both in the legal and regulatory sense.  We have outstanding human capital, a highly educated workforce and we are developing, slowly but surely, into a society open to new technology and change.  We are the top pharmaceutical producer of U.S. prescription drugs, our financial services industry ranks alongside the most sophisticated, and our telecommunications services are the most advanced of Latin America and Caribbean countries. We also have political and social stability and a cultural affinity with both the United States and Latin America that places us in a very unique position.

      I believe today is a very exciting time in the history of Puerto Rico, a time of unprecedented convergence, and a time of great opportunity.  Puerto Rico is in need of new leaders in all areas of society: academia, public service and private enterprise. Leaders who are willing to embrace the challenges of the new millennium with confidence and optimism, that are not afraid of challenging old frameworks and re-inventing new ones in order to better serve Puerto Rico and enrich and empower our island.

      I would like to end with a personal anecdote. Some years ago, better said, many years ago, I was in the same position you are today. I had spent seven years in Cambridge pursuing my undergrad and law degrees. I had grown accustomed to the “Cambridge way of life”, which just like you, I had greatly enjoyed. After finishing law school I was facing the dilemma whether I would go back to Puerto Rico or stay working in the United States. It was the time of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, a very challenging and interesting time to stay in the states and be a part of “history in the making”.  To top it off, I had been offered a position as Personal Assistant for Hispanic Affairs to the Mayor of New York City, the Hon. John Lindsey. It was the kind of job that offered great challenges, wonderful opportunities for professional growth and better remuneration than any job offer in Puerto Rico.
      After much soul searching I decided to accept a position as general counselor at the University of Puerto Rico. I was motivated by the strong conviction that it was my duty to put my knowledge and training, my youth and enthusiasm, to service in Puerto Rico. I felt, and still do, that since I had been lucky enough to have been offered the wonderful opportunity to study abroad, I should give something back through public service. I understood it was my duty to try to make Puerto Rico a better place for those less fortunate than me.
      I have never regretted my decision.

      Soon it will be your time for decision making. I am sure many of you have already been offered many enticing job offers that would require staying away from Puerto Rico. I am here to tell you that Puerto Rico needs you.
      We need you in order to keep alive our tradition of facing and solving problems with creativity and determination. We need you because we have to have the talent and the resources to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of our growth. We need your intelligence, your training, your creativity and your enthusiasm to tackle the problems that are holding us back, to address our reality, and find out what is keeping us from economic growth and social stability.  We need you to think creatively and look at alternatives, because the policies of the last couple of decades have not been working.
      It takes challenging times to rally a group of people around a vision.  I call upon you to reject complacency and allow Puerto Rico to share in your many talents.  

      Thank you very much.